Our foremost wishes for 2019

1/4/2019, 6 a.m.
With the start of 2019, the Richmond Free Press invited select state and city officials and leaders to share their ...
Congressman A. Donald McEachin, a Henrico Democrat, celebrates his re-election to the 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives at a joint victory party with Ms. Spanberger Tuesday night at a Henrico County hotel. He defeated Republican challenger Ryan A. McAdams and Libertarian candidate Peter Wells. Photo by Sandra Sellars Richmond Free Press

With the start of 2019, the Richmond Free Press invited select state and city officials and leaders to share their foremost wishes for the new year. Here are their responses:

A. Donald McEachin

A. Donald McEachin

4th District Congressman A. Donald McEachin

My 2019 foremost wish is that Democrats are successful in achieving our goals to improve the lives of the American people.

We have a responsibility to ensure that Congress is a co-equal branch of government and we hold the president accountable for his actions. We have an obligation to introduce legislation that will improve the lives of Americans by ensuring every American has access to affordable, high-quality health care with coverage for pre-existing conditions; that a working wage is a living wage; that we have equal pay for equal work; that every vote is protected and encouraged; and that we are taking concrete steps to address climate change now.

We must make sure our democracy continues to function, thrive and govern for the people. That is why we will begin passing legislation in 2019 that will protect every vote, increase transparency and prioritize ethical behavior in government. We will stand up for civil rights and human rights.

I promise you I will keep fighting hard every day so that you and your loved ones have a better future. I am determined to do what I can to accomplish these critical goals.

Jason Kamras

Jason Kamras

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras

I wish for an end to violence in our children’s lives.

In the 11 months I’ve been superintendent, I’ve lost several students as well as several parents due to shootings. The toll this takes on our students, families, schools and communities is indescribable. The emotional impact is devastating enough. But there’s also a neurobiological effect. We now know that repeated trauma in a child’s life can actually influence the development of the brain.

Fortunately, we are blessed at RPS with so many talented and dedicated teachers, counselors and social workers who help our young people work through the trauma in their lives and to find a way forward.

But we need to do more to support RPS staff in this work. That’s why our new strategic plan — Dreams4RPS — includes a commitment to providing “trauma-informed” training for all of our educators so they can be even more skilled at supporting students who face toxic stress in their lives as a result of violence or abuse. 

As we take these steps to confront the difficult reality that so many children face, let’s return to my wish — that the violence ends. Let’s do everything we can, as one Richmond community, to create a healthier and more peaceful 2019 for our children.

Adria Scharf

Adria Scharf

Adria Scharf, executive director of the Richmond Peace Education Center

This year marks 400 years since the first forced arrival of enslaved African people to the shores of what is now Virginia. The system of slavery emerged rapidly in the years that followed.

My wish is that in 2019, the Commonwealth as a whole — and white Virginians in particular — reckon directly and honestly with this horrific history that shapes our communities to the present day.

From mass incarceration, to the ownership of wealth, to mortality rates, profound racial divides persist in every sphere. Our nation’s current president rode racial dog whistles to the White House, appealing to white fear and racism in order to divide. I wish I could say that we had moved farther along by this point in our history. But here we are. 

Virginia needs to move beyond a whitewashed commemoration. Virginians as a whole need to acknowledge the unspeakable trauma that white racial oppression has inflicted and the myriad ways that this history lives on in our state today. 

As part of this year of “reckoning,” I wish for more white Virginians to do their “own work.”

I direct the Richmond Peace Education Center. At the peace center, we provide a variety of conflict resolution and trauma healing programs to the Richmond region. Our goal is to build a more peaceful community, free of violence.

Ultimately, however, we know that to get peace, we need justice. And we recognize that if we want to eradicate violence, we must seek to eradicate the systemic violence of racism that has built this state and which has never been adequately acknowledged or redressed. 

This is urgent work. It is necessary in order to get to the place where we are better able to stand together, across lines of race and culture and class, to form the mobilized multiracial coalitions that will be necessary to bring about real change for the next generation. It is past time.